By Sophie Childs
They might be big, tough and fierce competitors, but strongmen can be real softies at heart. These gentle giants gave us plenty of sweet memories during 2019, both behind the scenes and during competition.
Here’s a round-up of our favorite moments which made us all go aaawwww!
He might have retired from active competition to pursue an acting career, but Eddie Hall is still a regular at Giants Live. In January, he teamed up with bodybuilder Martyn Ford to take on his toughest challenge to date- A wheelbarrow race against GT Academy School!
Demonstrating he hasn’t lost the competitive streak, Eddie did a few pushups to warm up before powering down the track head first, outpacing the kids who were half his height and a quarter of his age. Still, it was all in good sport, and after their victory Eddie and Martyn gave the boys a big hug before posing for some photos.
With Eddie Hall retiring in 2018, Britain’s Strongest Man this year was wide open, with every single one of the 12-strong field in with a chance of a good result. Unfortunately for former Police officer and local lad Phil Roberts, his hopes of a podium finish were dashed when he lost his grip on the 160 kilo Atlas Stone. In the blink of an eye, Phil lost his grip on the 4th stone as it came crashing down on his leg, taking him out of the contest and showing just how dangerous this sport can be.
Phil’s horrific injury didn’t stop him giving a thumbs up to the crowd as they rose to their feet to cheer him on as he was stretchered out to hospital. Phil underwent surgery to reconstruct his leg and is already back training strongman!
Rob Kearney had an amazing 2019; Not only did he marry his partner Joey, win the Australian Arnold’s and share a yacht with the man himself, he also managed to snatch the American Log Press record away from Robert ‘Strong & Pretty’ Oberst at the World Log Press Championships 2019, held as event 1 at Europe’s Strongest Man in Leeds.
Rob took advantage of Oberst’s absence to break the record, pressing a whopping 214 kilos to snatch the record from OB. Sharing a tender kiss with his husband in celebration was a beautiful moment, and Rob later joked “Jesus. Here I am, like, pressing almost 500 pounds over my head, but no, they just want to see the guys kissing!”
Brothers Tom and Luke Stoltman are a dominating force in the strongman scene and while they might both be aiming for gold in competition, they’re still each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
Never was this more apparent than during the Atlas Stones at Europe’s Strongest Man, when the two brothers went head to head. Tom ‘the Albatross’ Stoltman showed why so many are tipping him as a future World’s Strongest Man, finishing the stones in an impressive 21.81 seconds, before dashing round to encourage big brother Luke to lift the final 200kg atlas stone before the clock ran out.
Afterwards, Luke described his brother as “one of the best stone lifters on the planet.” He even warned that his brother’s performance could make him “get emotional.” Careful, Luke!
Giants Live showcases the strongest men on the planet performing incredible feats of strength- but their talents don’t end with the barbell! Eddie ‘Singing Strongman’ Williams recently reached the semi-finals of Australia’s Got Talent with his smooth singing and skillful guitar playing. What isn’t common knowledge is that our very own Mark Felix is a dab hand on the drums, so when we heard the two of them were going to team up for a little singalong, we knew we were in for something special.
At the athlete meeting ahead of the Giants Live North American Open, the duo treated us to a toe-tapping tune that showed that if they ever decide to retire, there’s a possible future music career beckoning.
In 2019 Giants Live took to the stage at the legendary Wembley Arena for a night of strength sports the like London has never seen. We kicked it off in style with the World Deadlift Championships, the first time the competition has been run as a max weight event since Eddie’s incredible half tonne record-breaking lift back in 2016. With the starting weight an eye-watering 400 kilos, this Deadlift really was one to separate the men from the boys.
The field slowly whittled down until there were three men left standing to attempt a 455 kilo lift. After Jerry Pritchett and Rauno Heinla made it look easy, it was time for Bosnian-born Nedzmin Ambeskovic to attempt the lift. Despite the roar of 8,000 fans willing him on he couldn’t quite make the lift, leaving it to the other two men to battle it out for the ultimate crown.
In an emotional post-lift interview, Nedzmin told us how proud he was to be able to represent Bosnia at Wembley and dedicated his lift in memory of his father, who was killed during the Bosnian war. He apologised to the crowd, noticeably disappointed he hadn’t succeeded. The crowd gave him a rapturous ovation and we can’t wait to see what Nedzmin can do in the future.
Longtime fans of World’s Strongest Man were delighted to hear that strength legend and 3x champion Bill Kazmaier would be taking on fellow legend and 4x champion Magnus Ver Magnusson in a one-off special event at Giants Live Wembley- the Legends Challenge. Both men would dust off their sleeves and chalk up for a head to head battle on the Hercules Hold.
Both men were clearly stoked to be out of retirement and the crowd were just as thrilled to see a blast from the past. 8,000 spectators were on the edge of their seats to see which of the two men would prevail.
Although the weight had been reduced by around 20 kilos each side, it was still more than most mortals could handle for more than a few seconds. Magnus Ver Magnusson took to the stage first, taking time to ready his grip and hunker down for as long as he could.
Over the next 1:41 seconds, the crowd witnessed a true legend at work, using his legendary grip strength to hold on to the pillars for longer than anyone could have imagined. The crowd went wild as 56 year old Maggi was transported back in time to his heyday as World’s Strongest Man.
Getting anywhere near that mark would be a tough task for 65-year-old Kaz. The crowd watched in awe as the Kazmaier of old emerged backstage- those intense eyes and pure seething rage pouring out of him. Kaz couldn’t hold on to the pillars as long as Magnus Ver, but when Kaz ripped off his shirt and tossed it in the crowd in celebration, it was as if we’d gone back in time to the 80s…
It takes a lot of sacrifice to reach world class strong man standards and the athletes need the support of their whole family to perform their best. Unfortunately, this sometimes means important family events have to take a backseat to the competition, and Americans Robert Oberst and Kevin Faires both missed their children’s birthdays to come to the World Tour Finals in Manchester.
Still, while they might not have had Daddy there to help them blow out the candles, Robert and Kevin made the most of having a crowd of 7,000 people behind them to lead a rendition of Happy Birthday to You, recording the moment on their phones to send a special birthday wish back home.
He might not speak much English, but Russian Marine Mikhail Shivlyakov always manages to win over the hearts of the crowd and this was never more apparent than after he tore his hamstring during the first event at the World Tour Finals. In a superhuman demonstration of mind over matter, Mikhail refused to be beaten, limping onto the arena to compete in not one, not two, but three more events!
While his injury proved too much for the Russian to compete in the Atlas Stones, that sort of mentality shows why it is he’s such a popular presence on the strong man circuit.
In every sport there’s always that bad guy everyone loves to hate, and former WWE wrestler Evan Singleton knows how to get the crowd going. His brash, over-the-top attitude was on full display at The Giants Live World Tour Finals in Manchester, stealing the microphone from Neil Pickup and trash talking Iron Biby.
Even the toughest men have a soft side, though. After hauling a 450 kilo VW Beetle down the 20 meter course, Evan brought out a cuddly T-Rex toy and went in to the crowd. Evan made a friend for live as he gave a little girl the toy and a big hug, showing that even the toughest of strongmen still have a soft, gooey centre.